Before buyers will open up to you about their needs and desires, they have to first be comfortable with you. Comfort (and trust) begin with rapport.
Building rapport is sometimes dismissed as a ploy to make a superficial connection with a buyer. You shouldn’t make superficial connections, you should make genuine ones. Genuine rapport sets the table for the rest of the conversation.
Ask questions to help you build genuine connections with people. Most importantly, remember to be yourself and the rest should follow naturally. Otherwise, buyers will see right through it.
Here are seven sales questions to help build rapport.
1. What did you do last weekend?
Questions about off-work activities provide insight into what matters to your buyer. You’ll learn about kids, pets, hobbies, passion projects, likes and dislikes, and more. It also offers the opportunity to identify shared experiences. Maybe you have children of similar age or you’re both coaching the little league team. Similarity is one of the four principles of rapport and a great way to build it.
People appreciate when you ask about these things during subsequent conversations, too.
2. What’s going on in your company these days?
Asking about business in general seems broad, but buyers will often rattle off a few things that are most important to them. It shows buyers that you’re curious and want to know what’s going on beyond your particular sale. It could also give you ideas for cross-selling and up-selling later.
3. How have things in your business changed given [insert an industry trend]?
Industry-impact questions demonstrate your familiarity with and interest in the buyer’s business beyond simply stating, “Yes, we’ve worked in [industry].” It shows the buyer that you’re an industry-insider and that you “get it.” Not only does this boost credibility, but also builds rapport.
4. It was good to hear the short version of your background at the meeting, but since we’re at dinner, I’d love to learn more. What’s the rest your story?
People love talking about themselves. If you’ve already done the 20,000-foot-overview talk, asking for more details shows you’re truly interested in learning more (but only if you do it genuinely). This is a great opportunity to build a true connection and relationship by learning about the person’s past and where they come from.
5. I like the way you don’t just have your values up on the wall like every company, but you have all the comments from your team about what the values mean to them. I’m sure you discovered a lot about your organization and team. Where did that idea come from?
Knowing your buyer’s leadership style and more about the company’s culture will give you a better idea of how to communicate with the team during the sales process and when you start working with them. It also shows that you’re attentive and genuinely interested in them. This is just an example—the idea is to ask about something that truly intrigues you.
6. You shared that you want to retire in a few years. What are you thinking of doing then?
Like the weekend question, a question about the buyer’s future will help you understand what’s important to them and what they’re passionate about when they’re not working. It will help you relate on a personal level and find common ground. After all, people buy from people they like.
7. What were you doing before you were at this company?
Your buyer’s career path may come in handy because it will give you a sense of where they’ve been and where they’re headed. You may discover that a buyer pivoted in their career or that you know someone in common, which are great opportunities to ask more questions.
Rapport represents the R in the RAIN Selling methodology to lead masterful sales conversation, and it’s an important piece. Make genuine connections from the beginning and you’ll find that your sales conversations and the sales process in general go more smoothly. The foundation of all sales is trust, and real rapport goes a long way to building that foundation.
Mike Schultz is a best-selling author of “Rainmaking Conversations” and “Insight Selling,” director of the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research, and president of RAIN Group, a global sales training and performance improvement company. Follow Mike on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn.